If you are worried about the time and expense of having your estate go through probate, there are a few things you can do so that your family will not have to deal with it. Here are five examples of ways you can avoid probate:
1. Start out with a small estate: If you can get it down under the probate exemption limit, you do not have to worry about it. The limit in California is $150,000.
2. Reduce your estate by giving assets to heirs in advance: While many people hold onto their assets until death and then pass them on through wills, trusts and other means, nothing says you have to. If you start giving assets to heirs that you would give them anyway, you can reduce an estate that is over the limit.
3. Let property transfer automatically by owning it jointly with someone else: The other party is often just your spouse.
4. Set up “payable on death” accounts: When you pass away, a bank account can automatically go to the person you name, for example, without first going into probate.
5. Set up a living trust: Creating the trust in advance allows you to transfer assets into it right now. Then it will not count as your estate at all. It is controlled only by the trustee. The trust can then distribute the assets as you see fit. This is another way to shrink your estate in advance.
As you can see, you have a lot of different options when it comes to estate planning. Make sure you consider living trusts, joint ownership, giving away assets in advance and everything else.